Algonquin communities protest moose hunting at Quebec wildlife reserve

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Kelly Greig, CTV Montreal

Two Algonquin communities are protesting moose hunting at La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve in Quebec's Outaouais region, where they say sport hunting could destroy the moose population.

Eight checkpoints are manned around the clock along Highway 117, which runs the length of the park.

His second year guarding the checkpoint, Gene Twenish said if the Quebec government won't act by barring access to sport hunters, it's the only way to keep the moose population healthy.

"It's because our ancestors thought about the next seven generations. They thought about us, that's why we have what we have today," said Twenish, who is from Kitigan Zibi, a First Nations reserve of the Algonquin band Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg.

The park is one of the largest wildlife reserves in the province. Located in northern Outaouais, it spans over 12,000 square kilometres.

The Algonquin communities of Barriere Lake and Kitigan Zibi are demanding a five-year moratorium on sport hunting.

"It's for everybody, not only for ourselves. We are protecting it, not only for us, it's for everybody," said Sherry Chabot of Kitigan Zibi.

An aerial survey in January and February showed there are approximately two moose per 10 square kilometres.

In 2008, it was three moose.

The Forest, Wildlife and Parks Ministry said the drop was not dramatic enough to justify a moratorium, but it did issue 30 per cent fewer permits this season.

On Wednesday, a judge granted the Mont Laurier Hunting and Fishing Association an injunction, which requires the barricade to come down.

Twenish said he's staying put.

"The injunction, I still haven't received a copy in English, so I have no idea what it says," he said.

A little farther north, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have also set up checkpoints.

Chief Casey Ratt said it's gotten to a point where Indigenous hunters would rather stay away during the sport season.

"We haven't barely seen any moose in our territory now.

It's very hard to go into the territory because we have sports hunters in our territory who are sometimes aggressive," said Ratt.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network filmed a heated exchange between hunters and protesters. In it, two trucks are allowed to pass; then the second truck hits one of the community members before driving away.

Many say it's a clear example of a lack of respect.

"They do it for the pride and joy of shooting a moose. Taking a picture, posting it, sharing it with their friends and family that they took a life," said Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi.

CTV reached out to the Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishers, but did not receive a reply.

These issues were also raised earlier this month at the National Assembly, where then Indigenous affairs minister Sylvie d'Amours defended her record, including on the hunting dispute.

"I am present, and I work with the Indigenous people and for the Indigenous people," she said.

D'Amours has since been replaced.

The Forest, Wildlife and Parks Ministry sent CTV a statement saying: "The government is open to negotiation on the issue of moose hunting."

But the Algonquin communities said this is unceded land and is another example of the province ignoring their demands.

"It's always been about Quebec trying to get their laws into our territory. We have a constitutional right to hunt. It's a right for First Nations people. Meanwhile, we have Quebecers buying the permits to hunt, which is a privilege for them," said Ratt.

Community members say they aren't going anywhere.

"We're not asking for much, for five years," said Twenish of the moratorium. "We're protecting our way of life and making sure the next seven generations will be able to continue our way of life."  

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